Review: “Blood II: The Chosen” (Retro Computer Game)

2016 Artwork Blood II improved review sketch

First of all, let me say that I’ve been waiting a long time to play this game. In fact, I’ve been waiting since late 1998/ early 1999 when, as a kid, I found a demo of “Blood II” on the cover disc (anyone remember those?) of PC Zone magazine.

Well, about seventeen years later, I finally got round to getting a full copy of this game when I noticed that it was on sale on GOG back in November.

This wasn’t for want of trying, since I’d found a second-hand CD of “Blood II” in a charity shop when I was a teenager – only to find that the disc was scratched to hell and totally unplayable. So, yes, this has been a long time coming.

The version of “Blood II” (titled “Blood II: The Blood Group”) that I bought on GOG also comes with the “Nightmare Levels” expansion pack (you can read my review of it here). If you want to read a review of the original “Blood” (which I played in early 2015), it can be found here.

I should probably point out that, for reasons I’ll explain later, I foolishly didn’t play as Caleb when playing through “Blood II”. Likewise, I should probably warn you that this review will obviously contain some GRUESOME IMAGES. Then again, what do you expect from a game with the word “Blood” in the title?

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Blood II: The Chosen”:

blood 2 alternate title

“Blood II: The Chosen” takes place a century after the events of “Blood”. After defeating Tchernobog at the end of the first game, Caleb absorbs his powers and the Cabal is in disarray. Over the next century, it is rebuilt into a modern corporation by a man named Gideon. However, in the year 2028, Caleb (and the other members of the chosen) mysteriously return to fight the cabal once again.

One of the first things that I’ll say about “Blood II” is that it looks nothing like the original game. I’m not talking about the fact that it uses fairly impressive (for the time) 3D graphics, rather than the wonderfully cool sprite-based graphics of the original game. No, I’m talking about the fact that – for the most part – it looks like pretty much every generic sci-fi FPS game since whenever.

What? This is a "Blood" game? Seriously?

What? This is a “Blood” game? Seriously?

Although there is a greater variety of slightly more interesting settings later in the game, this game really doesn’t make a great first impression.

This isn’t helped by the fact that the game monotonously re-uses a few levels in a crude attempt to imitate a “Hexen”-style hub level system. If you go into this game expecting it to be a cool gothic horror game, like the first game was, then you’ll be disappointed.

Still, there are some cool settings in this game.

Still, there are some cool settings in this game.

Don’t get me wrong, the near-future sci-fi settings aren’t a bad thing (I mean, they reminded me a bit of a cross between the “Red Faction II” and “Half Life”) – but they’re not what I’d think of when I think of a “Blood” game.

Apart from an old cathedral, you have to wait until the fourth "chapter" of the game before you really start seeing any "Blood"-like settings.

Apart from an old cathedral, you have to wait until the fourth “chapter” of the game before you really start seeing any “Blood”-like settings.

In terms of gameplay, “Blood II: The Chosen” is a 1990s FPS game. It certainly isn’t a perfect one, but it still blows most modern-style FPS games out of the water.

The levels are challenging and non-linear, it contains a proper saving system (none of this “checkpoint” rubbish), you don’t have *ugh* regenerating health, there are bosses that you have to fight, there are an imaginative array of monsters (as well as generic modern-style soldiers), the combat is gratuitously gruesome, you can carry an array of creative weapons (rather than just whatever the world’s militaries are using these days) and the game actually has a sense of humour.

 Thankfully, this is the closest thing that you'll see to a checkpoint in this game.

Thankfully, this is the closest thing that you’ll see to a checkpoint in this game.

Yay! It's a "Revenge Of The Nerds 2" reference :)

Yay! It’s a “Revenge Of The Nerds 2” reference 🙂

In terms of difficulty, this game is probably slightly easier than the original “Blood” was – but it still gives you a reasonable challenge. Not only are most of your weapons slightly underpowered (eg: even the basic “cabal soldier” enemies can require two shots from the sniper rifle or napalm launcher to kill), but some parts of the game require careful exploration in order to progress (either to find the exit or to find the game’s ludicrously small keys and keycards) – so, yes, I got stuck a couple of times.

This was a little frustrating, but it was still nice to play a FPS game that required me to actually use my brain occasionally. From what I’ve heard, you won’t usually find things like this in modern FPS games.

Likewise, the wide variety of enemies help to keep the combat challenging, since you need to use slightly different tactics, depending on which types of enemies you’re fighting. Even the small enemies in this game are a formidable threat, since there are three types of “facehugger” enemy (a leech-like creature, a red spider and the disembodied hands from the original “Blood”) which will quite literally grab your face and can only be dislodged by hammering the “action” button repeatedly.

And, yes, this made me jump the first time it happened.

And, yes, this made me jump the first time it happened.

Yay! The hands are back and now they can also give you the finger too.

Yay! The hands are back and now they can also give you the finger too.

As for the weapons, this game comes from the tail end of the time when FPS weapon design actually used to be creative. Although you get a few *yawn* “realistic” guns (eg: an assault rifle, dual SMGs, dual pistols and a high-caliber sniper rifle), you also get things like semi-automatic flare guns, voodoo staffs, ludicrously-sized machine guns, tesla cannons and other interesting things:

Yes, this ISN'T a "Call Of Duty" game.

Yes, this ISN’T a “Call Of Duty” game.

I haven't actually seen the "Phantasm" movies, but I still got the reference for some reason.

I haven’t actually seen the “Phantasm” movies, but I still got the reference for some reason.

However, this game limits you to carrying just ten weapons at any one time. So, you’ll have to make a few hard decisions about which ones you want to carry and which ones you don’t. Still, compared to modern games and their *ugh* two-weapon limit, this isn’t that bad. Still, it’s probably where the rot started to set in.

 Back in 1998, you could just carry ten weapons. In 2008, you could often only carry two. In 2018, FPS protagonists will be prohibited from carrying any weapons.

Back in 1998, you could just carry ten weapons. In 2008, you could often only carry two. In 2018, FPS protagonists will be prohibited from carrying any weapons.

As you would expect from a game called “Blood II”, this game tries to be as gruesome as it can. However, it’s relatively tame – I mean, although there are some cool blood spatter effects, the gruesomeness of the gibbing effects are somewhere in between “Quake II” and “Soldier Of Fortune II”.

Yes, this is probably one of the goriest parts of the game

Yes, this is probably one of the goriest parts of the game

I'd have expected a larger amount of blood spatter from this game though

I’d have expected a larger amount of blood spatter from this game though

Still, this game was made in a much more censorious era in gaming history and this can be also seen by the fact that about half of the profanity in the game is actually bleeped out. I’m not kidding here – if you talk to some of the NPCs, parts of their dialogue will actually be bleeped out – yet their gory death animations aren’t censored in any way. You’ve gotta love contradictory 1990s American censorship!

One interesting feature in this game is that you can choose to play as one of four characters (Caleb, Ophelia, Gabriella or Ishmael).

Each of these characters has different voice-acting (and, yes, this is a game from the good old days where the main characters in FPS games actually used to make sarcastic comments 🙂 ) and, from what I’ve read and experienced, your character choice also has both small and large effects on the gameplay.

The small effects that I’ve read about is that each character’s melee weapon looks like a slightly different type of knife. Apparently both Ophelia and Ishmael also have a much larger ammo capacity when using magic-based weapons. Whereas, Gabriella can wield the minigun more accurately than the other characters apparently can.

Using this gun accurately is a good thing, given that it can eat through literally all of your bullets in less than a minute.

Using this gun accurately is a good thing, given that it can eat through literally all of your bullets in less than a minute.

In terms of the large effects that your character choice has, Caleb gets all of the good stuff.

Thanks to the fact that the game was apparently rushed into completion, you will only see any in-game cutscenes if you play as Caleb.

If, like me, you choose to play as one of the other characters (I played as Gabriella mainly because I’d briefly tried out all three of the other characters, and I’d already played a few levels as Gabriella before remembering the thing about the cutscenes) then there are no cutscenes whatsoever.

Likewise, in one part of the game (the meat packing facility level), Caleb’s dialogue will occasionally play instead of Gabriella’s.

To cap this off, when I finally defeated the final boss when playing as Gabriella – instead of even seeing some credits, the game just unceremoniously crashed. I reloaded my saved game and finished off the boss again – the game crashed again. I did this about five times.

If you aren't playing as Caleb, then defeating this guy is anticlimactic to say the least.

If you aren’t playing as Caleb, then defeating this guy is anticlimactic to say the least.

As you may have guessed by now, this game is notoriously glitchy. Sometimes, it will just crash for no reason whatsoever and – sometimes – when you die, you’ll still remain alive (but with zero health) and the enemies will just completely ignore you until you find some more health.

 This glitch isn't as bad or as common as it was in "The Nightmare Levels", but you can still end up being a member of the undead sometimes.

This glitch isn’t as bad or as common as it was in “The Nightmare Levels”, but you can still end up being a member of the undead sometimes.

All in all, “Blood II: The Chosen” isn’t a perfect FPS game by any stretch of the imagination. Hell, it isn’t even really a worthy sequel to “Blood”. But, taken on it’s own merits, it’s still an enjoyably challenging 1990s sci-fi FPS game. You could do a lot worse than this game.

Yes, there are prescient hints of annoying modernity in this game, but it still contains a lot of great gameplay features which prove that the 1990s were indeed the golden age of FPS gaming.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would probably get three. It’s fun, but it’s nothing special.

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